Having an introverted personality impacts every area of your life. It’s obvious how your introversion influences your career and relationships, but is it possible that there is a link between personality and food? And is there such a thing as an ideal introvert diet?
As an introvert, you might have already noticed that you have unique dietary needs. For example, you might be more sensitive to stimulants, such as caffeine and refined sugar. Perhaps, you’ve also discovered that eating certain foods does crazy things to your already unpredictable energy levels.
Is it possible that your introversion has something to do with these diet sensitivities?
The research on the subject is thin, but I’ve uncovered some important links between personality and diet:
- Many introverts, identify as a highly sensitive person (HSP) — especially those with ‘IN’ Myers-Briggs personality types (INFP, INFJ, INTJ, INTP) . When you are HSP, you experience hypersensitivity to external AND internal stimuli. Caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and various chemicals are all forms of stimuli that can create fatigue, anxiety, and mental fog in HSPs.
- Introverts are deep thinkers, who make decisions based on their internal experience. Many introverts carefully contemplate — and, even obsess — over the foods we choose to eat, making sure to consider how these foods line up with our values. This can lead to a highly specific introvert diet, which takes into account all sorts of factors, such as animal welfare, the environment, longevity, and disease prevention.
- Many introverts also consider themselves to be empaths. This means that we literally feel the energy and emotions of others. This can impact diet in two ways: 1) Empaths are more likely to process emotions in our gut, which causes digestion issues. 2) Many of us feel intense empathy for other living beings, and for this reason are unable to eat animals, or animal products. This leads a lot of empaths to gravitate towards a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the above links between introversion and diet, shall we?
The highly sensitive introvert diet
If you’re a highly sensitive introvert like me, you know how it feels to be hypersensitive to certain foods. Like many HSPs, I am insanely sensitive to caffeine. Half a cup of coffee will have me bouncing off the walls until 3 am, and drowning in mental fog the next day.
Sugar does nearly the same thing. Other food additives and compounds also do nasty things to my energy levels and mental clarity. Like so many other highly sensitive introverts, I feel at my best when my diet is free of:
- caffeine of any kind
- refined sugar
- processed foods
Now, I should say that I am not labelling any of the above foods as “bad”. These are simply foods, which can create adverse reactions in HSPs. The underlying reasons for our responses to these foods can vary.
Naturopathic Doctor and BodyTalk practitioner Dr. Tonia Winchester explains that there are four main categories of how we react to foods:
Category #1: An allergic response. This is an anaphylactic response moderated by the immune system. It is often triggered by foods like shellfish, and peanuts, and creates a massive histamine release.
Category #2: An IGG response. This is a more delayed immune system response, which can take 12-72 hours to manifest. The symptoms are highly varied, and can include headaches, arthritis pain, and menstrual cramps.
Category #3: Intolerance to foods. This response occurs when we don’t have the proper enzyme to break down a food. For example, when we don’t have the enzyme lactase, we can’t break down the sugar in dairy. Typically, this response causes gut related problems.
Category #4: Sensitivity. This response does not have an immune system or enzyme connection. It occurs when the body doesn’t feel safe with a food because of genetics, or a trauma connection.
I know that this might be a lot of information to absorb. And it doesn’t end there. During our interview, Dr. Winchester blew my mind with some of her revelations about diet and sensitivity. Go here to listen to my entire 20-minute interview with Dr. Winchester.
No matter what category of response you experience, food sensitivities are a pain in the behind. Not only that.
The diet struggle is real for HSP introverts
When you’re an introvert living in an extrovert’s world, having to worry about food sensitivities can compound your struggles. My past client Wayne Boustead, an INFP from Brisbane, Australia, explains:
“Having a sensitive type personality I believe food has a massive impact on my health and how I feel. Eating high sugar and salt foods puts my brain in a foggy state where I can find it hard to concentrate. This puts me in depressive states and I am more susceptible to things like drinking alcohol and eating bad food excessively, which is like a compounding merry-go-round that is difficult to get off. This then affects everything from sleep to how my skin looks and feels and how others perceive me, as well as my weight.”
So, how do we get off this dizzying “merry-go-round” created by our food sensitivities? I’ll be sharing some ideas later, as well as my own highly specific introvert diet. First, let’s talk about another key connection between personality and diet.
- The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and Introversion
- Highly Sensitive Introvert: How To Overcome Emotional Overwhelm
- Diet Guidelines For The Highly Sensitive Person
The empath diet
Okay, before we dive into this one, I have to offer a wee disclaimer. I know that the topic of diet and nutrition is sensitive territory. Often, people are as defensive about the foods they eat, as they are about their religion and politics. I get it.
No one wants to feel judged or criticized because of their dietary choices. I want to assure you that there is no judgment here, and I would certainly never want you to feel ashamed about what you eat or don’t eat, lovely!
So, how about everyone just ease their finger off the trigger, and try not to shoot the messenger, or beat yourself up. Because here’s the thing.
Extreme food choices
Nowadays, a lot of introverted empath’s are choosing a type of diet that many consider to be “extreme” or “controversial”. My friend Kristine Einang, who is an INFJ, Soul Coach, writer, and Light worker is a great example of this.
Einang, an empath, has been vegan since April 2016. Her diet choices are deeply influenced by her beliefs and emotions. She explains:
“Ever since 2012 I’ve had trouble with eating meat. Something simply felt off by the thought of eating the flesh of an animal. I know others could feel that shift of consciousness as well that year.”
Einang also acknowledges the impact that food has on her as a highly sensitive empath:
“Being a high level empath and a highly sensitive person, it’s extremely important to me to be conscious of what I eat. I get very easily affected by the food I eat. Sugars and caffeine makes me feel depressed, sick, gives me a headache, and makes my energy levels drop.”
Many empaths feel that by eating beings that were tortured, we are taking on the “energy of the animal’s suffering”. This might sound a little too woo woo for the general public to accept, but it is a common view held by plenty of empaths.
If there is one word to describe the reasoning behind how an introverted empath chooses his or her diet, it is “feel”. They are interested in the emotional implications of food choices.
On the other hand, the name of the game for introspective innies is “think”. Our choices stem from a whole lot of thinking, with a side of more thinking!
The introspective introvert diet
For many deep-thinking introverts, dietary choices are the result of in-depth reflection and careful planning. We think about the moral, physical, and environmental implications of what we put in our mouth.
We also consider the consequences of what we eat more than the average Joe. We know that a Big Mac today could lead to heart disease tomorrow.
Many of us are also keenly interested in diet and nutrition, and relish studying these topics until we go cross-eyed. My friend Michael, a highly sensitive INFP, spent decades fine-tuning his mostly vegetarian (he occasionally eats wild fish) diet, which consists of whole foods that adhere to Michael Pollan’s Food Rules.
He is also adamant about avoiding junk food — “I won’t even label them as ‘food’”, he says — as well as coffee, wheat, alcohol, and most processed food.
Michael attributes his dedication to his introvert diet to his “introverted love of learning about nutritional health.” He adds:
“What drove this diet was deep, long research fed by a desire to live a long active engaged life with top vitality. That was the main motivator for me. It was also driven by the loss of my Dad when I was 12 … he ate all the wrong things, like many in his generation, directly contributing to his fatal heart attack.”
Another one of my past clients, Allen, an INTJ, became a vegetarian as a teenager, after serious reflection about his values system. He explains:
“I became a vegetarian at aged 18 for ethical reasons. I was raised a Christian but at 18 … came to the conclusion that I was what I found out later to be an atheist. I then decided to create my own values system to live by, one of which was to do no harm to any other living creature if I can avoid it.”
The isolation diet
No matter what your reason for choosing a specific diet, having unique introvert diet restrictions can be just that — restricting. It can also feel isolating.
As Dr. Tonia Winchester puts it, “It’s kind of hard to avoid all of those things [that you’re sensitive to] because it can either be socially isolating or nutritionally or diet-wise, boring”
Let’s face it, being an introvert in an extrovert-biased society is already isolating for a lot of reasons. Many of your innate needs, such as your need to think deeply, and spend ample time alone, separate you from the masses, and leave you feeling lonely and misunderstood. Add onto that a bunch of random introvert diet restrictions, and you might as well put a giant “FREAK OF NATURE” sign on your forehead.
The social pressure to eat a Standard American Diet (SAD), leads many introverts to eat foods they know will have negative side-effects. My client Wayne Boustead, who now follows a mostly plant-based diet with some fish, points out that following a specific introvert diet “is socially awkward — I never realized how personal people take food!”
With all the inconvenience and possible isolation of following a specific introvert diet, you might be wondering …
- The Introverted Personality & Loneliness
- How To Explain Your Introverted Personality To Others
- How To Make Friends as an Introvert
Is it worth it?
“Foods can be medicine for us, or foods can be poison,” says Dr. Winchester.
For many introverts, the foods we eat on a regular basis are like slow-acting poisons that have both short-term and long-term effects. In the here and now, what we eat can cause energy spikes and dips that leave us feeling anxious, exhausted, and even depressed. And in the long term?
According to a vast array of studies, repeated immune reactions to food can have serious consequences over time. Not only does eating reactive foods cause tissue inflammation — it is also associated with the following diseases and symptoms:
- Skin disorders, such as eczema, rashes, and psoriasis
- Neurological symptoms, such as depression, migraines, mood swings, and ADHD
- Immune system problems, such as allergies and autoimmune diseases (including arthritis, and diabetes)
- Respiratory diseases, such as asthma, and chronic cough
- Cancer, such as bowel, or breast cancer
I don’t know about you, but in light of the above information, I think the health protective benefits of an optimized introvert diet far outweigh the inconvenience. But the question remains …
- Introvert Burnout: 3 Sneaky Signs You Have it + How to Avoid It
- Are Introverts More Likely To Be Depressed?
What foods should introverts eat?
We’ve already talked about a lot of the foods that can cause an immune reaction in sensitive introverts (dairy, wheat, caffeine). Other common food sensitivities include, peanuts, soy, seafood, and tree nuts. Sensitivities aside, there are other physiological reasons to avoid certain foods.
As you might have noticed, many of the introverts I included in this article have chosen to follow mostly vegetarian or vegan diets. Other than empathy and ethics, there is another reason why I believe these diets appeal to many introverts.
Eating for optimal digestion and energy
Did you know that the digestion process takes a lot of energy?
Animal flesh, especially red meat, is difficult to digest. Most veggies and fruit take less than 45 minutes to digest, and starches and beans take 1-2 hours. Meanwhile, meat, poultry, and fish can take several hours.
This means that for several hours after you take your last bite of Suzy the Cow, your body will be devoting much of your precious innie energy towards breaking down and processing her flesh.
We introverts need all the energy we can get, so consuming more easily digestible, nutrient-dense foods is an easy way to give ourselves a boost.
How to determine your ideal diet
The first step to finding what diet works best for you is to find out what is not working. Most experts recommend eliminating certain foods one at a time to pinpoint specific sensitivities. After you’ve zeroed in on the foods that harm, it’s time to start eating foods that heal.
About the only thing that various diet gurus seem to agree on is this: raw or lightly cooked fruits, and veggies are great for your mental and physical health. Many also recommend a diet rich in legumes, whole grains, and nuts and seeds.
I am not a nutritionist, or doctor. I’m simply an INFP, highly sensitive, introspective, empath, introvert with a long history of dietary experimentation. After years of trying out different diets and eliminating and adding various foods, here is what my current diet includes and omits.
My current introvert diet includes:
- Raw fruit, especially bananas, berries, mangoes, apples, avocados, tomatoes, limes, and lemons
- Raw greens, especially spinach, lettuce, basil, and parsley
- Raw veggies, especially red pepper, zucchini, and celery
- Cooked veggies, especially kale, string beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower
- Legumes, especially black beans, white navy beans, and chickpeas
- Starches, especially potatoes, and sweet potatoes
- Grains, especially white rice, quinoa, gluten free pasta, and oatmeal (I also occasionally eat brown or wild rice, but find it hard to digest)
- Tofu, especially garlic smoked tofu — yum! (only a couple times per week as I think I may be sensitive to soy)
- Nuts and seeds, especially raw almonds, cashews, ground flax seeds, chia seeds, natural peanut butter, and tahini
- Organic sauerkraut
- Vegan protein powder, especially french vanilla flavoured Vega One
- Vegan treats, especially organic dark chocolate, and Justin’s organic peanut butter cups (sparingly)
- Condiments, including apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, Vegenaise, and hot sauce (I try not to overdue it, but I do love my hot sauce!)
- Daiya vegan cheese (sparingly)
- Coconut and olive oil (sparingly)
- Vitamin B12 fortified foods, including almond milk, and nutritional yeast
- I also occasionally take probiotic supplements and digestive enzymes
My current introvert diet omits:
- All dairy, including milk, butter, cheese, and yogurt
- All animal flesh, including cow, pig, turkey, chicken, and duck
- All seafood, including fish, and shellfish
- Gluten (I am not as strict with this one)
- Refined sugar
- Caffeine, including coffee, and green tea (it makes me CRAZY!)
- Hard liquor (I do have the occasional glass of wine or prosecco, but I can no longer stomach hard liquor)
As you might have already noticed, my current introvert diet focuses on vegan whole foods. I have eaten this way since November 2016; however, I have been dabbling in veganism and vegetarianism for about two years.
My main reasons for choosing this introvert diet were related to food sensitivities and digestive issues. But as an HSP empath innie, I have been ‘feeling my way’ toward this way of eating for many years.
My current diet has resulted in more consistent blood sugar and energy levels, better digestion, drastically reduced PMS, and clearer skin. I also feel much more mentally sharp (no more midday brain fog), and less moody.
Is my diet right for everyone?
Not necessarily. Many of the foods on my inclusion list are widely known to increase energy, longevity, and overall awesomeness ;P . And many of the foods on my omission list have been strongly linked to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and a variety of other illnesses (for more info on this, I recommend reading The China Study.)
That said, I do believe that each person has their own individual optimal diet. Discovering yours could be the difference between living a long, healthy, energetic life …
And facing a lifetime of exhaustion, dis-ease, and Grumpy Cat-esque mood swings.
I hope you make the right choices for YOU, dearest!
What about you?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the best introvert diet? What do you currently include and omit in your diet? Can you relate to what I said about HSPs, empaths, and introspective introverts and diet?
Lots of love,